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Unread 11-22-2013, 09:36 PM   #1
Kieradee
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Failed Thinset or ???

Hello,
I had a contractor create a new shower stall about 1 1/2 years ago. This was the second one he had done for me from scratch. The first, in the master bath, has held up just fine and there are no problems. This second one, in the guest bath, is giving me fits.

I had him tear out the old, funky plastic shower and surround, then build the shower with a seat, create the pan, put in the liner, then the cement floor. I did all the tile work. His cement pan on this shower was not level and he left a gap between the bottom of the Hardibacker and the cement pan. It also didn't slope towards the drain from all 4 corners. I used Thinset to level the shower floor and cover the gaps around the bottom. It took forever for the Thinset to dry and it never really dried hard; you could push on it with your finger and it would give a bit, even after using a heat lamp for several days. I knew it was a bit thicker than the recommended application but thought it would be ok. I put another smaller layer of Thinset over the first layer and applied my rock floor. I let that dry for several days then applied the sanded grout.

The first area that failed, after a few months, was one of the corners just under the shower head. It was squishy so I dug it out, put in new Thinset and let that dry. This is the corner where the gap was the greatest and the slope was going down in that corner instead of sloping towards the drain so I had built up a slope using the Thinset. I let it dry for two weeks, with a heat lamp. Then added a thin layer of Thinset, the rock floor, let that dry for another week, then grouted. That corner seemed to be fine. It has always looked dry over the past year and felt solid. The middle area of the shower was another story.

About two months ago the center, right where you stand under the shower head, started feeling squishy. Just a little at first, but it gradually got worse and worse. Finally this week, the Thin set raised up in the center area and there was a big bubble. I dug my finger through the Thinset and the first 1/2" was solid but underneath there was nothing but water. I've torn out half the floor now and will tear it all out (but it's hard work). The Thinset throughout the shower is wettest where it's next to the cement floor. Some of the rocks I pulled out (only 5 or 6) had black mold on the underside, so I'm glad I didn't wait any longer. The corner that I redid last year...I was able to slide my scrapper underneath it with no problem. That area was dry all the way through and not wet/watery next to the cement, but it wasn't rock hard. The Thinset feels kind of like silicone chaulk, or at least that the closest description I can think of.

I've attached a picture of the mess. Any ideas? Was it just a bad batch of Thinset? I used the premixed Simpleset Thinset Mortar.

Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions.
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Unread 11-22-2013, 09:42 PM   #2
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Welcome, Diane.

That photo is far too small to be useful in evaluating your situation. You can attach photos up to an electronic size of 2Mb using the paper-clip icon above the Reply dialog box. Maybe give it another try.

While you're working on that, please tell us exactly what "Thinset" you used for your substrate buildup (bad idea, that) and setting your tiles. Brand name, make and model.
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Unread 11-22-2013, 09:44 PM   #3
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Diane,

Welcome to the forum.

I only needed to read that you used pre-mixed thinset. Pre mixed thinset is mastic, which re-emulsifies when wetted back to its original soft gooshy nature as when you scooped it out of the bucket.

IMHO you'll fare well by removing all the mastic and tiles, which should be very easy, washing them off or throwing them away, and taking pictures to show us what's left.
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Unread 11-22-2013, 09:46 PM   #4
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She said this stuff CX
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Unread 11-22-2013, 09:58 PM   #5
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Ok, I'll try the pic again. The instructions said it could only be 50KB so I shrunk it down.

And yes, the picture of the mortar is exactly what I've used, on both showers. The master bath shower was done about 4 years ago and I've had no problems with it at all.

This pic is after taking a shower, that's why there's so much water.
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Unread 11-22-2013, 10:23 PM   #6
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This the wrong thinset (mastic) to use for your shower application. It's not meant to get wet because it will re-emulsify. Your picture is a great example of why mastic should not be used in a shower. As already suggested. It should be torn out and reinstalled with a cement based thinset. If a salesman at the store you bought the mastic at recommended this for you, they should come over and do the demolition for you as punishment for their poor advise.

If the mastic was truly used in your other shower, I would bet if you dug into it a bit you would find the gooey mess and black mold underneath the tile also.
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Unread 11-22-2013, 10:43 PM   #7
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Well, dang! Hells bells. Thank you, Juan. I'm actually glad that's the problem. At least I can easily (well, sort of) tear it out and start again with the right product. Thank you!
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Unread 11-23-2013, 12:02 AM   #8
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That's what I was thinkin', Paul. Don't know how I missed that. Maybe she was still typin' whilst I was answering, eh? That's gonna be my story, anyway.
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Unread 11-23-2013, 12:53 AM   #9
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Another example of why manufacturers should not label mastic as premixed thinset mortar.

Sure the data sheet and the fine print on the back of the bucket says not to use on shower floors, but most people don't read those.

All mastic buckets should have a huge warning label on the front in bold print. Here are my ideas-

"For use with small ceramic wall tile on dry areas only"

"We may call this mortar but it contains no portland cement"

"If it comes in a bucket it is not thinset"

It it true that thinset is technically a method not a particular material, but thinset has turned into a generic term that most people assume is a cement based adhesive for tile installed in a thin layer.

When the marketing departments label mastic as thinset mortar I think it is intentionally deceptive to DIY market.
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Unread 11-23-2013, 10:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isaac
When the marketing departments label mastic as thinset mortar I think it is intentionally deceptive to DIY market.
A comment which has been made to more than one of them, Isaac.

Thus far to no avail.
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Unread 11-25-2013, 02:18 PM   #11
Kieradee
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Actually, I did read the back and it doesn't say not to be used on shower floors. Live and learn! I did some research and had NO idea there are so many types of mortar! Instead of going to Home Depot/Lowe's, etc., I'll go to Dal Tile and get the correct product! Thank you all for the feedback. I'm really thankful it wasn't a worse problem!
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Unread 11-25-2013, 02:24 PM   #12
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You can get the appropriate, and good quality, product at Home Depot as well, Diane. You just need to know what constitutes correct and that's not always an easy thing at Homer's unless you bring the knowledge with you.
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Unread 11-25-2013, 04:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kieradee
Actually, I did read the back and it doesn't say not to be used on shower floors.
It's actually on the Data Sheet

http://www.custombuildingproducts.com/TDS/TDS-182.pdf

Quote:
Originally Posted by CBP

Limitations to the Product
  • Do not bond tile directly to lightweight concrete, gypsum surfaces, hardwood, Luan plywood, particle board, parquet, cushion or sponge-back vinyl flooring, metal, fiberglass, plastic or OSB panels. Contact Technical Services.
  • Do not use on shower floors or areas exposed to prolonged water exposure or steam.
  • Do not use to install fixtures, ungauged stone tile, Saltillo pavers or glass tile.
  • Do not use to install backerboards to subfloors, over a waterproof membrane or to install heating mats or coils. We recommend using a Custom® polymer*modified mortar.
  • When setting moisture sensitive stone, tile or agglomerates use EBM-Lite™ Epoxy Bonding Mortar 100% Solids.
  • Do not use more material than is necessary to bond tiles. If floor is uneven use a LevelQuik® or LevelLite® Self Leveling Underlayment.
  • Installation dry time varies depending on tile size and density, substrate porosity and ambient conditions.
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Unread 11-25-2013, 07:17 PM   #14
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Diane: Versabond gets good reviews here as a quality thinset, and is available at Home Depot.
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